What little peach fuzz three weeks of growth brought to Jake Layman’s face, the swingman had shaved by Sunday evening. At the behest of Maryland assistant coach Scott Spinelli, Layman buzzed the playoff beard, sported in support of the Boston Red Sox. Then he exploded for 23 points on Catholic University during an 84-39 exhibition rout.
Entering his sophomore season, the clean-cut and streamlined Massachusetts native torched the Cardinals, curling off screens and turning the perimeter Sunday afternoon into his personal game of “around the world.” Layman made 5 of 7 three-point attempts in 26 minutes, and his game-high scoring total was three points more than his best performance last winter.
“He’s a good player,” Coach Mark Turgeon said, repeating himself for effect. “He’s a good player … Jake can shoot it. The thing about Jake too is he can also drive it, so if they get up on him he can drive all the way to the rim or pull up. He’s got the whole game.”
Even before Maryland opens its season Friday against 19th-ranked Connecticut, the college basketball world has begun to notice Layman, who were it not for Seth Allen’s broken foot might not have started the exhibition. Considered by some NBA scouts to be the Terps’ top professional prospect, Layman made “breakout candidate” lists on both ESPN.com and CBSSports.com. It’s why one national analyst has compared Layman to Houston Rockets guard Chandler Parsons six separate times since last October.
And by all accounts, on a team stuffed with scorers, Layman can match the hype. At 6-feet-8, boasting a picturesque release meant for instructional videos, he can rise above defenders and shoot in close quarters, immune to hands waving in his face.
And unlike last season, he catches passes with a plan.
“I feel more comfortable, and my confidence is really high right now,” Layman said. “Everything is going smoothly on the court.”
Layman’s afternoon against Division III Catholic started much like his teammates’: with a bad pass turnover. But as the Cardinals took a 10-8 lead, Layman took over. Charles Mitchell found him for a three-pointer from the left corner. Then he intercepted a pass intended for teammate Evan Smotrycz and swished one from the right wing. Then he curled off a screen, gathered himself at the top of the key and drained another.
Three Terps possessions. Three three-pointers by Layman. Against zone or man-to-man, it didn’t matter.
“He’s really improved,” Turgeon said. “It’s nice.”
Opposing defenses, Division I teams starting players taller than 5-feet-11, will undoubtedly uncover ways to scheme against Layman, perhaps face-guarding the sophomore and daring him to dribble, but what then? Transfer Evan Smotrycz attempted only one three-pointer against Catholic, wisely posting up versus the undersized Cardinals, but he might be as accurate as Layman from deep this season. Dez Wells, the team’s leading scorer last season, had just seven Sunday, and four others scored in double figures.
So maybe Layman slows down at some point. But ever since leading the Terps with 21.3 points per game in the Bahamas, the buzz has grown louder in College Park and beyond, playoff beard or not.